Boston Celtics: 2014Game44
Give the 2013-14 Boston Celtics this: They're awfully entertaining.
Sure, there have been the occasional blowouts (at Houston, at Indiana) that have left Gerald Wallace ranting at times about the team's play, but even while laboring through some tough stretches, these scrappy Celtics have more often than not played extremely hard and hung around deep into games.
Entering Wednesday's visit to Washington, Boston had dropped three heartbreakers in a row by a total of 12 points. Playing without their starting backcourt of Rajon Rondo (precautionary day off on back-to-back) and Avery Bradley (sprained right ankle), Boston could have been forgiven if it struggled against a Wizards team trying for the fifth time this season to get over .500.
But a starting backcourt of undrafted rookie Phil Pressey (career-high 20 points, including five 3-pointers) and veteran Wallace (nine points, nine assists) joined forces with Jeff Green (season-high 39 points on 14-of-26 shooting with eight 3-pointers) to lift Boston to a thrilling 113-111 overtime triumph at Verizon Center.
There's a small population of Boston fans that likely watched the final moments of Wednesday's win and pounded their fists in anger after Wallace's driving layup with 2.5 seconds remaining proved to be the winner. The Celtics, those fans will lament, missed an opportunity to slip behind the Philadelphia 76ers (winners over the New York Knicks) for the fourth-worst record in the NBA.
Those fans missed another extremely entertaining and hungry effort, as well as one of Boston's better wins this season. Guys were diving on the floor, hustling for loose balls, and making big shots. A win like this can help players like Pressey and Green far more than another loss would aid Boston's draft chances.
A handful of takeaways from Wednesday's game:
- IN THE ZONE: Playing in his old college gym with plenty of friendly Georgetown supporters on hand, Green found a zone that he's rarely visited this season. He knew it from the start (when he pulled up for a 27-foot triple a little more than a minute in). The Wizards were up three with 80 seconds to go when Green dribbled into a double-team on the left wing, then calmly put up a 27-foot fadeaway off one foot that dropped to tie the score and force overtime.
That's the Green many were hoping to see without an All-Star supporting cast around him. Green added 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 assist and 1 block in 46 minutes. He was a team-best plus-10. Coach Brad Stevens joked after the game that nobody was happier for five extra minutes of play than Green.
- PHIL-ING UP THE STAT SHEET: Pressey has used a depleted backcourt and an increased opportunity to strut his stuff in recent games. Averaging 25.6 minutes per contest in his past five outings, he has posted 31 assists with only nine turnovers (five of which came in Wednesday's win) while showcasing his calming influence and quarterbacking skills. But the knock on Pressey remained his shooting ability. All the pint-sized point guard did against Washington was connect on 7-of-10 shots, including 5-of-6 beyond the arc, while scoring a career-high 20 points in 34 minutes, 31 seconds.
Going up against one of the toughest covers in the league (John Wall, who posted a triple-double) and battling foul trouble for much of the night, Pressey was his usual ball of energy on the court. He not only directed Boston's offense, he played inspired defense (forcing a jump ball against Wall on a breakaway, and winning the ensuing tip). A reminder that the Celtics have Pressey locked up for less than $1 million in each of the next two seasons.
- SECRET-WEAPON WALLACE: Veteran Gerald Wallace had produced one basket in his first 40-plus minutes of game action Wednesday night, a fast-break layup that he couldn't have passed up if he wanted to. Taking the inbounds from Green with less than 10 seconds to play in overtime, it's fair to say everyone at Verizon Center figured the ball was going back to Boston's red-hot scorer. Instead, Wallace turned back the clock and kicked on the afterburners while attacking Martell Webster and muscling in the deciding layup with 2.5 seconds to go.
Wallace sure knows how to pick his spots. With Bradley expected to miss a couple of weeks with a sprained right ankle, Wallace will get first crack at those available minutes at shooting guard. Wallace might not shoot the ball a lot, but when he does, he makes the most of his opportunities. The only negative from Wednesday: He was a minus-8.
- LOOSE BALLS: D-LEAGUERS IN FOCUS: Chris Johnson, one of Boston's two 10-day contracts who had a breakout night against Miami on Tuesday, came back with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting with four steals, two rebounds and an assist in nearly 30 minutes. Johnson's hustle and energy, especially on the defensive end, are making good things happen. ... Vander Blue, formally signed to the other 10-day deal Wednesday morning, drove to D.C. after spending his most recent D-League stint with the Delaware 87ers. Blue had a coast-to-coast layup (while drawing the and-1 foul) and Boston built as much as a 19-point first-half lead.
THE NITTY GRITTY
A shorthanded Celtics squad leaned heavily on Jeff Green (season-high 39 points on 14-of-26 shooting, including 8-of-16 beyond the arc; finally he shines in the solo spotlight), while rookie Phil Pressey scored a career-high 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting while connecting on five 3-pointers (nearly doubling his season total). Gerald Wallace, starting in place of injured Avery Bradley, handed out a team-high nine assists, then called his own number while driving for the winning layup with 2.5 seconds to play in overtime. John Wall posted a triple-double (28 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) to pace Washington, while Marcin Gortat (10 points, 13 rebounds) added a double-double but the Wizards failed to get above .500 for the fifth time this season.
The Celtics led by as much as 19 (and 18 at the intermission), but Wall and the Wizards dominated the third quarter while rallying within a possession. Boston didn't trail for the first 41-plus minutes of the game, but the final 11:37 (6:37 of regulation and overtime) featured four lead changes and 10 ties before Wallace muscled his way to the rim and put home the winner late in the extra session. Wall's 3-point attempt at the buzzer was off the mark allowing Boston to escape with only its second win of the month.
This was Boston's first overtime game of the season. The Celtics set a franchise record with a whopping 11 overtime games last season. ... The Celtics connected on 15 triples, shooting 44.1 percent beyond the 3-point arc. ... Rookie Vitor Faverani was the only available player that did not see floor time. ... Rajon Rondo did not dress as a precaution on the second night of a back-to-back, while Jerryd Bayless (sprained toe), Bradley (sprained right ankle) and Keith Bogans (excused from team) all were inactive.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (15-29) snapped a three-game losing streak while winning for only the second time in their last 14 games (all while playing with a depleted roster that saw minutes for recent D-League additions in Chris Johnson and Vander Blue). Boston will take Thursday off coming off this back-to-back before hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night at TD Garden. A reunion visit from old friends Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce looms on Sunday.
After missing nearly a full year after tearing his ACL, Rondo returned to game action on Friday. He has played the past three games on a minutes restriction, but the Celtics will exercise caution on the tail end of a back-to-back.
"This is Rondo’s preseason right now," Stevens said before Wednesday's game. "[It's] not fair to him that it happens in the middle of January."
Rondo played a season-high 26 minutes in Tuesday's loss in Miami. He's expected to return to action when the Celtics host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.
Boston is also expected to be without starting shooting guard Avery Bradley, who sprained his right ankle during Tuesday's loss in Miami. Stevens said Bradley is "probably out a couple of weeks."
Without Rondo and Bradley, the Celtics started undrafted rookie Phil Pressey and veteran Gerald Wallace at the guard spots on Wednesday night.
"Changing of the guard," quipped Stevens. "We've got a lot of new faces in the locker room anyways, so we've got obviously a unique setup here."
The Celtics signed 6-foot-5 D-League guard Vander Blue to a 10-day contract Wednesday. It's the second 10-day contract added to Boston's roster, as the Celtics inked Chris Johnson out of the D-League on Friday.
Boston was already playing without backup combo guard Jerryd Bayless, who sprained a toe in his left foot in Sunday's loss in Orlando, and veteran swingman Keith Bogans, who was excused from the team due to frustration about his lack of playing time.
(Information from The Associated Press was used in this report)
- HEALTH IN FOCUS: A Celtics team already thin on available bodies (particularly why Rajon Rondo works his way back to 100 percent) will likely be without starting shooting guard Avery Bradley, who sprained his right ankle in Tuesday's loss in Miami. What's more, Rondo's status on the second night of a back-to-back is unclear (if he plays, will his minute restriction be tighter?) and Brandon Bass dinged up his hip on Tuesday. Gerald Wallace would seemingly be in line to start in place of Bradley, but the Celtics will need every player in uniform to step up on the second night of a back-to-back to close out this brief three-game trip.
- FIFTH TIME'S A CHARM?: From STATS LLC: Four times this season, the Washington Wizards have had a chance to win a game that would put them over .500. All four times they have lost. "It's not a magical thing [where] I think all of a sudden fairy dust is going to fall on us if we get over .500 [and] we're not going to lose another game," said Washington coach Randy Wittman. "We just got to continue to play the right way. That's all I want to do."
- LOOSE BALLS: HOMECOMING: It's a home game for Jeff Green, who grew up in the DMV and played at the Verizon Center during his time at Georgetown. Green is coming off a night in which he missed 10 of 15 shots and was minus-11 against the Heat. ... This is the second of four meetings between the two teams. The Wizards posted a 106-99 triumph over Boston in December. Two April meetings loom to finish up the season series. ... Jerryd Bayless, injured Sunday in Orlando, is likely out again with a sprained toe in his left foot. ... The Celtics have lost 15 of their last 17 overall, including three straight. The Wizards have won four of their last five, including a 17-point triumph over Miami.
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